Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Great Gatsby (1974) Movie Review

As part of my homeschool high schooler's English studies, after listening to the audiobook we watched The Great Gatsby movie released in 1974 starring Robert Redford as Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy.

My first reaction to this movie was that it clearly was produced in the era before director jobs were taken over by those afflicted with ADHD. This is a movie with long slow shots and quiet scenes not the zip-zap-zig-zag-back and forth style used (even in drama genre movies) in the 2000s. As a result my teen and tween aged sons thought this movie was boring. They are accustomed to the fast pace of today's movies and especially to action and adventure movies. This movie was as slow and leisurely as the non-working wealthy classes' lifestyle, and it set a tone and the right pace for the story.

I recognized lines spoken which were directly taken from the book. Anyone who complains about the dialogue then would take issue with the original novel.

The mansion featured in the movie I read was one of the Newport mansions. There was a feel of the grandness of some Long Island homes, yet the roads were dirt and there was smoldering trash and mess on the roads leading from the stately homes to Manhattan. I had not thought about what Long Island was like in the 1920s but that sure gave a sense for it, wow, how things change.

The costuming was lovely and gave informed us that the characters were dripping in money. In contrast Mr. Wilson the garage owner with his messy small shop and his old clothes gave the sense of the disparity between the working class and the old and new money. However I had a hard time getting a sense with this movie that a central theme in the book: old money vs. new money, and the way the old money people looked down upon the new money people was not clear enough.

I'd read a review beforehand complaining that this film focused too much on the party scenes and costuming. Although more detail was seen with the party scenes than was described in words in the book it was not too over the top for me. This very thing is what I am concerned about with the movie that is set for release in May 2013, whose trailers show ridiculous parties almost like Moulin Rouge with professional dancers in the burlesque style, acrobats, and so forth, which were absent from the book. The 2013 movie also seems like it may be more steamed up with lovemaking scenes, which would bring it in line with movies of our era but which are not present in the book.

There were some small changes to the storyline that did not offend me much. Gatsby's path from teen to age thirty was not explained in this movie as it was in the book, which is a shame as it leaves movie viewers not finding out about that, unless they had previously read the book. One of the least shown things though was to what extent Gatsby was buried alone and how everyone who flocked to his parties didn't care when he was gone, that element of him coming from nothing, trying to appear to fit in by throwing big parties, then being instantly forgotten and that none of those shallow people ever cared about him was not a point that came through in this movie, even with just the barely attended burial, it wasn't enough to portray that.

I felt Redford played Gatsby a bit more coolly than I imagined him, I thought from the book that Gatsby had more spark and charm than Redford portrayed, but Gatsby's idealized love toward Daisy was more apparent to me than I felt came through in the book. This movie played up his sentimentality and a more obsessive in a weird way view of his passion for Daisy. I felt this movie more clearly showed that Daisy's love was not as sentimental and came off as kind of a revenge affair or as my twelve year old said it seemed "like a rebound relationship" since it started after Daisy was sure that her husband was cheating on her with a woman from town.

I am glad we watched this movie together after reading the book. I think the movie is a good match to the book. I can't wait for the 2013 movie to come out but as I shared previously, I worry that the focus of the 2013 film will be less on the human characters and the moral and ethical issues and more on thrills of added in sex scenes and focusing on the outrageous and unrealistic party scenes.


This movie is available for instant streaming viewing from and "full" Prime members may view it free of charge.


akitchenqueen said...

I truly enjoyed the Robert Redford version although I had not read the whole book beforehand. The fact that no one came to bid him farewell shows the shallowness of the upper classes during that time period.

Juanita's Journal said...

" The 2013 movie also seems like it may be more steamed up with lovemaking scenes, which would bring it in line with movies of our era but which are not present in the book."

The only "steamy" lovemaking scene - between Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson - occurred off camera and could only be heard for a few seconds.

ChristineMM said...

You are not correct Juanita.

but, Original movie trailers for the 2013 film were steamy. The film was still in the editing process. Others were complaining. A later trailer, that came out after this blog post, focused on the class difference with old money vs new money.

Did you forget about the steamy scenes in the party at the mistress' apartment?

I later reviewed the new movie here, which I did like very much but still prefer the old movie and the book most of all. ''